Real Housewife Kristen Taekman’s Winning Smile

IMG_7185I just met Josh and Kristen Taekman last week while they were promoting his EBOOST products to Southern Californians shopping in Whole Foods.

Josh offered me tastes of his EBOOST products, including his two new EBOOST products – Spruce, an on the go green juice and POW, a pre-workout powder. We talked about how he grew up in Danville, California, graduated high school and came down to Los Angeles to work in sales, before moving to New York City and working with Sean Combs in the late 1990s. Josh was Vice President of Marketing for the rap mogul’s Bad Boy Entertainment.

Kristen is a multi-tasking expert. Not only does this couple have have two small children, but she stars in the Bravo reality show The Real Housewives of New York City. She is an international model, has her own Pop of Color cosmetic company, a popular blog site and is passionately involved in the philanthropy Smile Train.

I liked talking to Kristen. She is beautiful, yet very sweet and down to earth. She shared with me that at the age of 16, she enrolled in the John Casablanca Modeling School while living in a small town in CT. She was one of the few at her school that starting working as a model in Boston and New York City. After high school she landed jobs in Paris and Milan. Her modeling agent continues to book this classic blonde modeling jobs.

After getting cast as one of the housewives on Real Housewives of New York City, Kristen started a blog DSC_0178www.lastnightslook.com. It evolved when fans wanted to know what she wore on the show the night it aired. She had so many inquiries to answer, that she decided to put her it all in one format for people to click on. Her fashion inspiration is Carrie Bradshaw’s style from Sex in the City. Kristen’s signature style is wearing chunky necklaces or layered necklaces.

Her nail polish line – Pop of Color by Kristen Taekman, started with the help of Josh and his relationship with Ricky’s NYC. The different colors have names such as, I’m Pretty, Pajamas, Rookie and Blue Moon and The King. Her nail polish can be purchased at Rickys NYC, East Hampton and Miami, FL. Since the polishes are 4 free, vegan and made in New York she is hoping they will go nationwide. She told me she has four new colors and is working on releasing a lip gloss line.

Her eyes lit up as she shared with me her involvement with the International Smile Train organization. This children’s charity offers a sustainable approach to a single, solvable problem — cleft lip and palate. With millions of children in developing countries with unrepaired clefts live in shame, many also have difficulty eating, breathing and speaking. Cleft repair surgery is simple, and the transformation is immediate. The Smile Train model provides training and funding to empower local doctors in 85+ developing countries to provide 100%-free cleft repair surgery in their communities.

Kristen was invited on a Smile Train trip to Mexico with doctors and administrators to a rural village to meet families with children born with cleft lips and palates. “For $250 Smile Train gives a child the gift of a smile,” Kristen told me. “Instead of being isolated in a village, these children become celebrities.” Kristen has made thousands of dollars on her smile and knows that the power of a smile is worth every penny. To learn more, go to smiletrain.org.

Before the interview ended, Kristen added, “If my journey on RHONYC ends, I will be fine with all the other activities, companies and organizations I am passionately involved in at this stage of my life.”

Watch Kristen in Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill

So a couple of nice Jewish boys from New York decide to open a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles … No, this is not an intro to a Jerry FullSizeRender-19Seinfeld bit, it’s the foundation behind Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill at The Grove.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill serves more than 50 different types of sushi and sashimi, hearty chops, grilled steaks and even matzo covered fried chicken.

Each guest is greeted by a shout of “Irasshaimase,” a standard sushi bar salutation meaning “welcome.” Guests can expect to hear it all night while sitting in the lively restaurant with a high ceiling, wood booths and beautiful walnut tables. Longer tables in the center of the restaurant are available for larger parties, and a dimly lit bar area toward the rear with a decorative brick wall is a popular meeting place. The Japanese decor offers neutral colors, with a splash of black to add form and definition. The geometric order lends a feeling of openness.

I sat near the sushi bar and noticed a distinguished, older Japanese man dressed in a faded lime green T-shirt standing next to a line of sushi chefs in traditional white uniforms. Each dish the chefs prepared was inspected by the gentleman before being delivered to guests. The gentleman was master sushi chef Toshi Ueki, from Kyoto, Japan, a celebrity in the sushi world.

After a trip to Japan, Bruce and Erik Bromberg opened their first Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar in New York City, in collaboration with Ueki. They next opened a second Blue Ribbon in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, and now a third at The Grove.
Chef Ueki has fresh fish and other sushi delicacies from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and the Sea of Japan, flown in daily for the restaurants.

“Master Sushi Chef Toshi Ueki is the heart of the sushi bar,” said A.J. Chang, one of the managers. The team at the sushi bar are sushi chefs from Japan and Korea, as well as local chef Elijah Lehrer, from Santa Monica.

FullSizeRender-17The night we dined at the Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar, managers from the New York and Las Vegas restaurants were present to ensure the restaurant ran smoothly. Owner and executive chef Erik Bromberg was in the kitchen.“Erik arrives before 10 a.m. every morning and doesn’t leave until after closing,” Chang said. “His work ethic is amazing and drives the whole team we hired here in Los Angeles. Erik is the soul of the kitchen.”

Erik and Bruce Bromberg grew up loving food. Their parents planned vacations around places to eat, so when they opened their first Blue Ribbon restaurant in downtown Manhattan in the early 1990s, the menu focused on their favorite dishes.

Randi Sakihara, the new general manager of The Grove location, recommended we order a few signature sushi and sashimi dishes for starters. We enjoyed the thinly sliced kanpachi amberjack served with a yuzu pepper and ponzu sauce. No need for soy sauce – this dish offered a pleasing citrus flavor.

IMG_6811The marinated bigeye tuna served on an herbal and frilly shiso leaf is another great dish, and arrives with mizuna salad and crispy garlic chips. Mizuna is a Japanese water green that looks almost like a small maple leaf and offers a mild peppery flavor, similar to arugula. The green leaf was a melding of cool greens and tuna with a hint of spiciness and a crunch of texture from the garlic chips.

All the dishes pair nicely with sake. A variety is offered on the menu, including unfiltered and undiluted sake, and a Blue Ribbon sake flight. I opted for a frozen Kirin Ichiban draft beer. The entire beer isn’t frozen; just the foam on top. It keeps the beer cold for up to 30 minutes.

The most visually spectacular dish was the sashimi of cherry sea bream. The rose-colored body is stuffed with shredded white daikon radish, and the thinly sliced meat is arranged to resemble scales of a fish. It’s served with fruity yuzu dipping sauce and decorated with white and magenta pink orchids.

Next, we tried the more hearty fare with a Jewish twist, starting with a rich oxtail bone marrow dish cut lengthwise before being baked, sprinkled with sea salt and topped with teriyaki sauce and shaved bonito to add umami flavor. The rich oxtail is spread on wonderful grilled challah bread.

The fried chicken is very special. Don’t expect Southern fried chicken; these brothers are from New Jersey. It’s their secret recipe in which they roll chicken into dry matzo meal and fry it. The method locks in the chicken juice, keeping the meat moist. Served with the brothers’ slightly spicy wasabi and honey dipping sauce, it is unique and delicious.

FullSizeRender-16Healthy fare includes the un-fried rice bowl, which resembled Korean bibimbap without kimchi. It’s served in a large bowl with warm brown rice topped with steamed julienne vegetables, scallions and a poached egg. I call it deconstructed un-fried rice, because every ingredient is placed separately on top of the rice and can be stirred together before eating.

We finished the evening with ginger flavored bread pudding topped with ginger ice cream and candied ginger pieces.

Everyone knows that a blue ribbon is a first place award – the best of the best. At this Blue Ribbon restaurant, the owners and staff strive to please each customer, and in my opinion, they succeeded. The food and service is worthy of a blue ribbon in quality and taste, and is a satisfying dining experience. The restaurant opens for lunch at noon, seven days a week. Dinner is served until 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; and until 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday. $$-$$$ 189 The Grove Drive. (323)352-9300.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on August 20, 2015.

Escape The Heat in Ventura

IMG_7160When the weather gets above 90 degrees, my husband and I seek more comfortable temperatures in the 80s at the beach. One of our favorite escape the heat destinations is Ventura.

It’s about a one hour from Los Angeles north up to the Ventura Harbor Village. Parking can be tough during the summer and early Fall, due to all the fun activities this area hosts. There are free summer concerts from 1 to 4 p.m. with Steel Drum music on Saturdays and live surf, reggae and rock on Sundays during the months of July and August. The concerts are at the Carousel stage near Hats Unlimited and the Village Carousel & Arcade.

There is a great beer festival that brings quite a crowd in June, a pirate festival that families enjoy in July, and live bands on a floating dock in September.  The Ventura Art and Street Painting festival with 40 chalk art artists take over the area in September, and before Christmas, the Ventura Harbor offers an annual parade of lights and fireworks in December.

Ventura Boat Rentals is one of our first stops to rent double kayaks. We cool down while sitting just above the water FullSizeRender-12and paddling around the docks with gorgeous motor and sailboats tied to their slips. We always see large sea lions basking in the sun on a pier near the entrance of the boat harbor and near the Island Packers boats. Island Packers offers wine tasting boat tours, taco and beer cruises, and day trips to Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Santa Rosa Islands. They also offer whale watching and marine mammal cruises. www.islandpackers.com

Another fun route is skimming over to the Ventura Keys and paddling by the million dollar homes with their own boat and dock in their backyard.

It’s fun to dream about what life would be like living in one of these homes, owning one of these boats, and never having to experience temperatures in the 90s and 100s. There seems to always be a cool ocean breeze, even on the warmest day.

FullSizeRender-13Ventura Boat Rentals also offers Yoga on the Water. For those who don’t want to work up a sweat, Ventura Boat Rentals offers a 40 minute harbor tour and little motor boats couples and families can rent. There are Jet Ski rentals with three person Seadoos, 4-person LRVDI and Yamaha VX Deluxes. During the winter they offer public cruises in December with free hot chocolate and holiday cookies. www.venturaboatrentals.com

Afterward an hour of paddling,  we developed an appetite, and strolled over to the The Greek at the Harbor. It’s a waterfront Mediterranean Grill and Lounge. Sitting near the window, we had refreshing views of the harbor and boats below. Looking over the menu, we ordered a few craft beers, specialty cocktails and a terrific Luxury Cadillac Margarita.

FullSizeRender-14For starters, the Cold Sampler Mezze plate is filled with a variety of dips that include tzatziki and hummus, plus tabouli, skordalia, melitzanosalata, taramosalata and warm pita bread. It’s perfect for sharing.

The Spanakopita filo pastries are flakey and stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. The Dolmades are moist grape leaves stuffed with beef, rice, herbs and topped with avgolemeno sauce. They also offer fresh fish, salads, burgers and sandwiches and the best vegetarian Moussaka that is layered with eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and topped with a béchamel cream. It’s delicious. www.greekattheharbor.com.

We skipped dessert and walked next door to Coastal Cone Ice Cream for Dole pineapple whip soft serve and ice cream in homemade waffle cones. www.coastalcone.com

Walking around the charming waterfront multiplex, we stopped into a variety boutique stores, galleries, and the Village Carousel and IMG_7140Arcade to play a few games of skeeball. The full-sized carousel has 36 beautiful hand painted animals. www.venturavillagecarousel.net 

Nearby, Andria’s Seafood Restaurant & Market had a line of people waiting to order some of the best fish and chips in town and cups of clam chowder. Even though it is very casual and served in styrofoam, it’s a very popular dining destination. Andria’s has been voted Best Seafood by The VC Reporter and VC Star. www.andriasseafood.com

At the end of the day, we always enjoy posing behind some whimsical cut out boards to take a picture or two as a memento to our special day at the Ventura Harbor.

HYDE Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Photo by Jill Weinlein

A free-form mural at the entrance welcomes patrons to Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails. Talented visual artist and designer Gregory Siff was commissioned to paint the edgy abstract of Sunset Boulevard. He wrote quotes from people he overheard while working in the restaurant, including hundreds of poignant and whimsical questions, statements and requests. The motif continues in the dining room.

I met a group of friends at a table near the mural to sample “Top Chef” Season 9 fan favorite Chris Crary’s new summer menu.

We snacked on spiced fried chickpeas and enjoyed Kentucky Mules made with Makers Mark bourbon, lime juice, spicy ginger syrup, Angostura bitters and seltzer water. My friend raved about the Red Dragon cocktail with Bacardi Dragon Berry, freshly pressed lime juice, muddled strawberries and a pinch of fresh mint. I really enjoyed the Hornet’s Ankles cocktail made with Avion Blanco tequila, lime juice and house-blended clover honey syrup. It’s a twist on the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail. As we enjoyed the drinks, we toured the restaurant and lounge.

A huge basement is located under the bar. A metal floor near the bar can be pulled up, revealing a stairway leading to two walk-in refrigerators, a dry pantry and wine cellar. When the building formerly housed the Coconut Teaszer nightclub in the 1980s, the area had a winding staircase and was called The Crooked Bar.

Hyde started down the street as a beloved celebrity club/lounge popular during the late hours. It was a small, intimate and private setting where Lindsay Lohan, Brittney Spears and Nicky Hilton entertained friends.
When Michael Mena XIV closed its doors, Hyde moved to the site at the corner of Sunset and Laurel Canyon boulevards, and hired executive chef Chris Crary to head the kitchen.

The interior was design by Waldo Fernandez and art collector Guy Hepner. Huge photos are displayed of Elton John playing piano to a sold out stadium crowd, and David Bowie sitting in a chair with a joyful large dog standing on its back legs. Two cozy fireplace areas are ideal for intimate gatherings.

Crary knew he wanted to be a chef at the age of 12 while helping his grandmother in the kitchen and eating her Southern food. When the restaurant space was being renovated before Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails opened, Crary asked the contractors if he could keep the old wood flooring. He sanded, stained and glued pieces together to make serving pieces for his creative fare.

Crary was formerly with The Viceroy and Ocean 41 before coming to Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails on the Sunset Strip. He was cast on Bravo’s “Top Chef”. How could they not select him? Not only is he an incredibly talented chef, he is extremely handsome. While on “Top Chef” Season 9 in Texas, he made it to the group of Top 16 chefs, and was voted fan favorite.

The Hyde is known for its nightclub environment, and now with Crary, it is becoming a foodie dining destination. We started with a colorful plate of peaches and burrata with curled prosciutto. The sweet grilled farmer’s peaches were topped with verdant pesto, toasted pine nuts and thin slices of pretzel bread.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Photo by Jill Weinlein

“Mostly everything is made in-house, except the burrata,” Crary said. “The burrata is from Italy. We bake the brioche and breads.”

Crary’s street tacos, priced at $3 on Tuesdays, are delicious. He makes four varieties each week. For the carnitas tacos, Crary uses pork butt roasted slowly at 250 degrees for more than nine hours. His halibut tacos are topped with a delicious lime slaw, and his carne asada is spiked with zesty creme fraiche.

I also enjoyed the seared ahi tuna with radish, heirloom tomato, avocado puree, basil and compressed watermelon. Crary places watermelon cubes in a bag with soy and sriracha sauces and honey. He vacuum seals the bag to infuse the flavors before serving the bright red watermelon with the ahi. Another seafood inspired dish is fried calamari with sundried tomatoes, pepperoncini, parsley, citrus and wholegrain mustard.

Entrées include a sliced 14-ounce bone-in rib-eye steak with crispy smashed fingerling potatoes and brick colored walnut romesco sauce for dipping. Locally-caught black cod is served with miso cauliflower, kumquat puree and crispy puffed rice.

My favorite dish was Crary’s simple and pure chicken Bolognese with melted parmesan cheese. It had less fat than mac-and-cheese, yet was so comforting.

Side dishes include corn crowdie with pistachio, chile, buttermilk, diced jalepeños and herbs decorated with chile limon popcorn. Another side dish offered is Brussels sprouts marinated in sherry and honey before being flashed fried and drizzled with almonds and dates.

Guests must try the cinnamon spiced milk with Crary’s brown butter chocolate chip cookies and a demitasse of espresso. Crary loves to prepare deconstructed desserts that include s’mores with a large brownie cake smothered with fudge sauce. He tops it with crushed graham crackers, marshmallows and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. His deconstructed lemon tart features meringue peaks, lemon curd and a sprinkling of crumbled pie tart crust.

Could this be the quintessential Los Angeles restaurant attached to one of the hottest nightclubs? Only time will tell, but with Crary at the helm, chances are pretty darn good.

Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails serves brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner begins at 7 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday; 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

Every other Tuesday, a comedy show is held at 8 p.m. with five comedians and a host. A $20 standing room entrance fee includes admission and one beverage. A $30 three-course prix fixe menu is also available. 8117 Sunset Blvd. (323)940-1650.

This article was published in the August 20, 2015 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Chefs Table Dinner at Terranea – VIP SPOTLIGHT – Dustin Plunkett

IMG_6953During my travels I meet some extraordinary people who make a difference in our world. Recently at a Terranea Chef’s Table Dinner, I sat at a table across from Kelly Pond, Executive V.P. Development and Communications for Special Olympics Southern California and near Dustin Plunkett, a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics.

We enjoyed a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception, followed by an intimate three-course dinner paired with wines personally selected by vintner Nebil (Bilo) Zarif, the owner of Summerland Winery.

The Honey Bee theme dinner was prepared by four of Terranea’s talented chefs – Chef Bernard Ibarra, Chef Elie Chow, Chef Bruce Nguyen and Chef Pierino Jermonti. Each prepared hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, a first course, main course and dessert all made with honey.

Dustin Plunkett

Dustin Plunkett

A portion of the proceeds from each dinner benefits a non-profit partner organization. The night I dined, the Special Olympics benefitted. While enjoying dessert, I sat next to Dustin Plunkett to learn more about his life and achievements.

Almost twenty years ago, Plunkett got involved with the Special Olympics after a director of a local parks and recreation noticed his athletic talent. He competed in seven different sports from golf to basketball. As he grew older the Special Olympics saw this jewel of a man and offered him many opportunities.

“Special Olympics is like a family to me,” shared Plunkett. He recently became an ESPN analyst with the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. “It was the most rewarding experience in my life.”

This kind, gentle and articulate public speaker shared, “The recent Special Olympics in Los Angeles brought 6500 athletes from around the world together. Iran walked into the Opening Ceremonies with Iraq. Over 1300 athletes received new glasses at the Healthy Athletes Village and 82% of the athletes were medically screened.”

Dustin is now giving back to the community as a coach for young athletes in basic sports skills, and as a basketball coach and softball coach for the Lakewood Special Olympics program in Southern California. The kids he coaches are very lucky. They will succeed in life under his compassionate direction and leadership. Follow and Tweet Dustin @DustinPlunkett.

Chefs Elie Chow and Bernard Ibarra from Terranea

Chefs Elie Chow and Bernard Ibarra from Terranea

To learn more about the next Terranea Dinners, tickets are $225 per person and must be purchased in advance, via Terranea.com.*Purchase two tickets and receive a complimentary ocean view room for the night of the event.
The next dinner is Thursday, October 29. It’s a Wine Harvest Dinner with proceeds benefiting Meals on Wheels. The multi-course meal is paired with Villa Oneiro, Rolling Hills.

On Thursday, December 3 is a Winter Harvest Traditions dinner with wine pairing by Margerum Wines in Santa Barbara. The evening will benefit City of Hope.

Fun Dim Sum at Shanghai Rose

IMG_6089-2The petite Rung Hu has pushed dim sum carts inside some of the best Hong-Kong-style restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. After leaving her native home of Shanghai 25 years ago, she adopted the name Rose, and worked hard to someday open her own restaurant.

When the Chi Dynasty restaurant closed in an architecturally-unique onion dome building on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, Rose secured the space to make her dream come true.

Shanghai Rose is elegant inside with black and red decor. Each table is decorated with red linen tablecloths and black linen napkins. Booths can accommodate two to four people and tables are available for larger groups. A bar near the front door offers beer and wine options.

While dining on a Friday night, Rose proudly showed me her new open kitchen staffed with chefs from Hong Kong. The kitchen is one of the cleanest I have ever seen. There were at least nine chefs, including a head chef, prep chef and deep-frying chef, quickly preparing dishes for guests. The chefs use Beijing-style woks that don’t have handles and are thicker than other types of woks.

IMG_6117“These don’t need as much oil to cook the meat and vegetables,” Rose said. “The wok warms up and retains the heat quickly.”

On weekends, small, ready-to-serve dim sum dishes are available on carts, allowing seated customers to make selections. The serving sizes have three or four pieces on each plate or in a steamer basket. Guests are encouraged to order family-style dishes for sharing with others.

Rose oversees the parade of traditional Shanghai dishes, including sweet sesame balls with red bean paste, steamed barbecue pork buns and wonderful soup dumplings. The dumplings are beautifully pleated rice dough treats — one bite and guests will enjoy the wonderful, piping hot pork broth.

Most of the other dim sum fare is Cantonese, such as jumbo pork siu mai dumplings, egg custard tartlets with a flaky crust that is rich and creamy but not overwhelmingly sweet, and cloud-like baked or steamed bao buns made from wheat flour and filled with meat, vegetables or sweet bean pastes.

The tradition when eating dim sum is to sip tea, and the restaurant offers a variety of Chinese teas for guests to enjoy with the dishes.

We ordered a few items from the dim sum and regular menus. As with other Chinese restaurants, there are starters FullSizeRender-10ranging from salt and pepper calamari and chicken lettuce cups to honey glazed spare ribs and fried shrimp appetizers. Five soups are served including egg flower, hot and sour, and sizzling rice with carrots, mushrooms, snow peas, sliced bamboo shoots and baby corn.

The menu offers a large selection of seafood, meat and vegetable dishes. We tried the mu shu chicken prepared tableside on a rolling cart. Our server spread sweet plum hoisin sauce onto thin pancakes and topped it with stir fried chicken breast, egg, cabbage, scallions, bamboo shoots, tree mushrooms and water chestnuts. It was one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Shanghai Rose has a double delight with stir fried jumbo shrimp and chicken with broccoli, carrots, snow peas and celery in Rose’s special sauce. They also serve Beijing duck with crispy skin and moist meat with julienned scallions, cucumbers, hoisin sauce and steamed bao buns.

Desserts include mango pudding, green tea ice cream and coconut jello.

Parking is available in front of the restaurant, on nearby streets or in an adjacent municipal lot behind the restaurant. The restaurant will validate for the first two hours of parking.

Shanghai Rose is open seven days a week starting at 11:30 a.m. $$ 12229 Ventura Blvd. (818)762-2542.

This article was published in the August 13, 2015 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Ray’s & Stark Bar Designer Water Program and Cuisine

 

FullSizeRender-7‘Water is the most important beverage you can drink,” said Martin Riese, the General Manager of Ray’s & Stark Bar. We all know that, however this certified water sommelier from Germany is an expert on water and the TDS (Total Dissolved Solid) in water. “The higher the TDS, the more minerals and health benefits. “There are so many wine, beer and spirit options in restaurants, why only one or two water options?” Riese said.

At Ray’s & Star Bar they offer an extensive water menu. There are bottles available to enjoy from Canada, Denmark, Fiji Islands, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

One of the bottles in the U.S., is Beverly Hills 90H20, a water Riese helped create. He brought two distinctive blue 90H20 bottles to our table to sample. The TDS is higher than other American waters and it offers a pure, no chlorine smell.

Spain is the winner of bottled water offering health benefits with their Vichy Catalan offering a staggering 3,052 mg per liter of TDS. That’s almost a full dose of several key minerals your body needs including calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, fluoride and silica.

Riese’s water menu is easy to read with a photo of each bottle and a rating scale for sweet to salty and smooth to complex. He also shows the sodium, magnesium and calcium content.

Who knew water could be so fascinating? Martin Riese sure did. He is on a mission to educate the public about water.FullSizeRender-8
Ray’s and Stark newer Executive Chef Viet Pham offers innovative plates that can be paired with designer water, wine, beer or cocktails.

Pham’s culinary approach combines classic French technique with bold flavors. His dishes are museum quality in their artful presentation, especially his hanger steak with a swirl of green garlic puree and brush of beef jus decorating the white plate with a wood grilled steak, roasted summer squash and reed thin asparagus.

My favorite dish is his black-as-midnight squid ink pasta made with a special Italian pasta maker called a chitarra, giving the fresh noodles a special texture. It’s cooked in a lemongrass and ginger water before decorated with whole bake blistered Sungold tomatoes, bits of crab, garlic, Calabrian chili, Red Boat fish sauce and Thai basil. This dish elevates your senses to a new level with a hint of sweetness, an essence of citrus and the saltiness of the sea.

His fluke (a flatfish or flounder) dish offered the quintessential summer flavors. Fluke is a mild fish cures with kombu, a Japanese kelp before slicing it thinly on a plate. The talented chef garnishes the white fish with green strawberries, kumquat, prickly pear and FullSizeRender-9green almonds.

Be sure to order the rhubarb crumble with salted caramel ice cream or the banana pudding bread with caramelized bananas and a scoop of cognac vanilla ice cream. Both are terrific.

Park La Brea residents can get 10% off their main course by showing their Ray’s & Stark card. After the 10th visit, residents will get $30 taken off the bill.

Brunch is Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch is weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is served nightly from 5 to 10 p.m. The Bar is open until 11 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Wednesday.

Park for free in the LACMA garage after 7 p.m. Early birds who brunch before 11 a.m. receive complimentary parking when each person spends $20 or more during brunch. Parking is located on Sixth St. at LACMA Way, one block north of Wilshire Blvd and one block east of Fairfax Ave. $$ 5905 Wilshire Blvd. (323)857-6180.

This article was published in the June 2015 Beverly Press Summer Dining Guide.

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